Laughter exploded around me as I hurried through the school’s front entrance. Over by the water fountain, four seniors played Hacky Sack while an audience of giggly underclassmen watched, making noises accentuated with rounded oohs and angled aahs. They all probably went to last night’s basketball game too—the lucky bastards. While I discussed table linens and canapés with hotel managers, they got to watch the Webster Titans trounce the Bay Cardinals, 90-40.
Sometimes I hated these classmates of mine.
I mean really hated them.
None of them had two hours of swim practice this morning. None of them had two meetings during school, another meeting after school, followed by two more hours of swim practice. None of them had a To Do list so complicated and involved, even I knew it wouldn’t be completed until after graduation.
Sometimes I wondered what it would be like not to worry about tomorrow, or next week, or next year. To live in the moment and just be.
A long stream of water hit me square on the nose.
Shocked gasps ping-ponged through the ten-foot wide, locker-lined hallway, followed by an awkward, collective silence.
My body flickered—it had been doing that a lot lately especially when I got mad or annoyed about something. It felt like ocean waves slamming against my chest, and no matter how strong a swimmer I was, sometimes the big ones knocked me on my ass even when I was only knee deep.
I took a few deep breaths to calm myself. Thankfully, the flickering stopped. I was never standing in front of a mirror when it happened so I didn’t know if the flickering was something other people saw or it was just in my head—which concerned me on a number of levels, but I couldn’t worry about any of that right now. Someone needed to be punished for their crime.
I tracked the gaze of the surprised onlookers. My assailant, an underclassman with an unsteady grip on a green squirt gun, shook in his red Nike sneakers. I wiped my face and flicked the water in his direction. The droplets soared through the air and landed on his flushed, round cheeks. To his credit, he took it like a man, but unfortunately for him, he became the target of the dark, foul mood that descended upon me the moment I stepped into school.
“Don’t you have a place you need to be?”
“Y…yes, sssorry Starrrr,” he said, adding an overflowing consonant stream in the already crowded hallway. I narrowed my eyes. He tossed the squirt gun into the garbage can and sprinted away, red Nikes and all. When the plastic toy landed at the bottom of the can, it was as if someone hit play and all the students returned to their regularly non-scheduled lives.
Yep, today, I definitely hated them.
I stomped through the crowds, throwing the occasional elbow and the well-directed shove, because evidently, I was still the only one who needed to be somewhere.
Frank’s buzzed head towered over the sea of students. I caught a glimpse of tight red ringlets by his side and understood why he didn’t wait for me after practice.
He glanced down the crowded hall. A broad smile crossed his face the moment he saw me. One icy vein thawed. “Hey Starr,” he said, then winked at the redhead. “I’ll see you later.”
“Bye Frankie,” she replied, smiling like she just won the boyfriend sweepstakes. Frank was the total package—tall, dark, handsome with the brains and personality to match, but he wouldn’t date Little Red long enough for her to find out. He went through girls faster than he swam the fifty, and he held the school record in that.
I frowned at him. “Frankie?”
I spun my combination into my locker. “She already has a nickname for you?”
I tried my combo again, but my locker refused to cooperate. It was like it wanted to add further insult to injury.
At least in this case, I could cause bodily harm to it without being frowned upon. I kicked the base of the locker since my foul mood hadn’t completely lifted and kicking metal seemed like a productive means to releasing frustration. Plus I didn’t know what was up with the whole body flickering thing. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to mention it to my best friend.
Frank rested his hands on my shoulders and guided me to the side. He hit the locker just below the locking mechanism, and it popped open. He smiled as he rested against the locker next to mine. “When you got it, you got it.”
I rolled my eyes.
“You know, I’m considered quite a prince to every girl in this school but…” He zeroed in a finger on my nose.
I swatted it away. “I know how charming you can be. The entire female population of Roger G. Webster High knows how charming you can be.”
He closed the distance between us. “I can’t help it if girls find me irresistible, but my dating days would come to an end if you went out with me.”
Most girls would love the attention Frank gave me. Most girls would grow red-faced and faint if they heard half the come-ons he practiced on me. Most girls haven’t been best friends with him since he was a short, obnoxious, hormone-ridden, scrawny seventh grader who wore ratty yellow Sponge Bob t-shirts and couldn’t get a date to save his life.
I shoved him into class. “Get a grip.”
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
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